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Carter v. Jury Commission

United States Supreme Court
396 U.S. 320 (1970)


Negro citizens of Greene County, Alabama (plaintiffs) brought a class-action suit against the state jury commission and other officials responsible for the administration of the state jury-selection laws (defendants). The plaintiffs alleged that qualified Negroes were never selected for jury duty and that the defendants were engaging in the systematic discriminatory exclusion of Negroes from juries. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, including enjoinment of the enforcement of the challenged jury-selection statute. The state jury-selection laws required the governor to appoint a three-member jury commission. The commission employed a clerk, who was responsible for providing a jury roll of every eligible juror between 21 to 65 years of age and known to be of good character and sound judgment. In compiling the rolls, the clerk was required to scan voter lists, tax lists, and telephone directories and to visit each precinct at least once a year. The district court held an evidentiary hearing and concluded that the jury-selection process did not satisfy the statutory requirements. Those who were responsible for preparing the list and administering the system were white and had limited contact with the Negro community, yet failed to employ any meaningful procedure to obtain the names of qualified Negroes. Although Negroes accounted for 75 percent of the county’s population according to the 1960 census, from 1961 to 1963 the largest number of Negroes on the jury rolls was 7 percent of the total number of jurors. The situation had improved only marginally after another federal court entered a declaratory judgment in 1964 ordering compliance with the statute. The district court concluded that Negroes were being excluded from jury duty on a racially discriminatory basis, and enjoined the defendants from further discrimination. The district court ordered an updated jury roll within 60 days. The district court did not, however, enjoin the enforcement of the challenged state statute. The plaintiffs appealed directly to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Stewart, J.)

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